Steps to take if you've been a victim of identity theft
Time is a critical factor when an instance of identity theft is discovered. If you learn you have been a victim of identity theft, immediately do the following:
- Place a “Fraud Alert” on your credit reports, and review the reports carefully. The alert tells creditors to follow certain procedures before they open new accounts in your name or make changes to your existing accounts. The Fraud Alert is covered in detail in its own article. Once you place the fraud alert in your file, you’re entitled to order free copies of your credit reports. Once you get your credit reports, review them carefully. Look for inquiries from companies you haven’t contacted, accounts you didn’t open, and debts on your accounts that you can’t explain. Check that information like your SSN, address(es), name or initials, and employers are correct. If you find fraudulent or inaccurate information, get it removed. Continue to check your credit reports periodically, especially for the first year after you discover the identity theft, to make sure no new fraudulent activity has occurred.
- Close accounts. Close any accounts that have been tampered with or established fraudulently.
- Call the security or fraud departments of each company where an account was opened or changed without your authorization. Follow up in writing, with copies of supporting documents.
- File a police report. File a report with law enforcement officials to help you with creditors who may want proof of the crime.
- Report the theft to the Federal Trade Commission, Attn: Identity Theft Clearinghouse, Washington, DC 20580; 1-877-ID-THEFT (438-4338) or TTY, 1-866-653-4261; www.ftc.gov/idtheft. Your report helps law enforcement officials across the country in their investigations.
- Use the Identity Theft Affidavit at ftc.gov/idtheft to support your written statement. The ID Theft Affidavit is covered in detail in its own article.
- Ask for verification that the disputed account has been closed and the fraudulent debts discharged.
- Maintain a written chronology of what happened, what was lost, and the steps you took to report the incident to the various agencies, banks and firms impacted. Be sure to record the date, time, contact telephone numbers, person you talked to, any relevant report or reference number, and required follow-up.